CLOSE-UP: Where Are They Now? - A creative-turned-wine critic who has a passion for plonk

Malcolm Gluck enjoys his job as The Guardian's wine taster.

It's 10 o'clock on a Wednesday morning and Malcolm Gluck has already made his way through 40 bottles of wine. As the wine critic for The Guardian and with several columns to write, as well as a wine website to edit and books to compose, Gluck is a very busy and successful man.

His days are full. He gets up early to crack on with tastings and has to write notes on, say, a couple of hundred bottles in a day, scoring each one as he goes. This summer has been a little quieter than most.

"This is the nicest August I've had in the 20 years since I left CDP in 1984," Gluck says.

A slightly easier workload has meant he could schedule in a bit of tennis.

When he was at CDP, the regime gave him a chance to become a tennis enthusiast and to indulge his passion for wines at some of the capital's finest restaurants.

Wine writing is the second time he's found a fulfilling career. He speaks about what he calls "real advertising" - intense and productive work - with a passion.

In the early 60s, as one of the first graduates from the Watford copywriting course, he worked at some "terrible agencies" where he experienced something of the celebrity-studded Bohemian Soho culture, but felt nothing in the way of professional inspiration.

Then, in 1966, he landed a copywriting job at an agency that had only been in London a few months: Doyle Dane Bernbach. "That changed my life," Gluck says. "At Doyle Dane there was a level of fierceness and ferocity. I adored it."

Gluck left advertising for the first time in the early 70s when Doyle Dane Bernbach underwent "a horrific merger". After a failed attempt at starting a business and then writing "this terrible novel that was never published", he returned to adland as a founding director of Abbott Mead Vickers.

He left three years later (with no shares) and then went to CDP, where he coined one of his best-remembered ads starring Ian Botham and three Shredded Wheats. (He, however, cites his work on Christian Aid, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Jamaica as among his own favourite campaigns.)

His time as the creative director at Lintas between 1984 and 1988 is probably, and unfortunately, his most famous period in advertising. Given a brief to turn the agency around, the word "Glucked" was applied to each of the many creatives made redundant in his office. When he was asked to leave in 1988, he waited until the gagging order expired and then wrote an infamous appraisal of his time at the agency for the readers of Campaign, given the headline: "The lonely passion of Malcolm Gluck."

This might have signalled an immediate departure from the ad industry, but he went on to set up Priestley, Marin-Guzzman & Gluck. He also plotted an ad magazine, Adze, whose backers pulled out after just one issue in 1992.

Meanwhile, he had met a former adland colleague-turned-journalist who invited him to write about food and wine for The Guardian. And from 1988 he wrote a regular column, called Superplonk, about supermarket wines.

As the wine writing flourished, the ad agency became a victim of recession, winding up in the early 90s.

"In a funny way this was the cloud with a silver lining and Superplonk took off in a big way. Several million white, middle class men were out of work or their finances were limited. They were prepared to take children out of private school or give up one of their cars, but they couldn't give up drinking wine."

Once again his whole life changed. "I am very lucky to have come out of the frying pan into the frying pan," he says.

What has not changed is his plain speaking. "I've always been terribly frank," he adds. That frankness has won him admirers and detractors. Clients, he says, used to prefer his matter-of-factness, especially when agencies generally used a cotton-wool approach.

And Gluck has the same direct manner in his new incarnation as a wine writer: "I do not like many of the people who pretend to be wine critics. I do not think they like me. I was resented when I arrived in the world of wine writing, landing the plum job at The Guardian, and my book, Superplonk, was greeted with howls of jealous derision, only to be copied by half-a-dozen wine writers (whose efforts rapidly perished after several issues)."

So what does Gluck have to say about the folk back in advertising, one wonders? His first art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach, Peter Kettle, is still one of his oldest and closest friends. "I miss terribly the intelligence and transcendent wit of so many of the men and women I worked with in advertising. I miss them a lot. I loved my time in advertising and only the latter half of it was racked with pain."

Anybody you'd like Campaign to track down? E-mail us at campaign@haynet.com.

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